What looked set to be a good weekend at Zolder for Darren Turner and Stefan Mucke turned into a fight to salvage points after disaster struck in the qualifying race for Round Two of the 2011 FIA GT1 World Championship.
Both drivers were in the top three throughout the three-part qualifying session and moved up to second on the grid for the qualifying race after penalties were applied to the car in second place.
Unfortunately Saturday’s qualifying race was a write-off from turn one and Darren didn’t even get to drive. After getting a great start, Stefan was hit in the rear quarter by the pole-sitting Lamborghini of Nicky Pastorelli and sent flying into the gravel. Rejoining at the back of the field the German soon got back down to business and was up to 12th by the end of lap two. He was ultimately forced to retire on lap three with a broken damper, caused by the collision at the start of the race.
So as in Abu Dhabi the No.8 Aston Martin DBR9 would have to start Sunday’s championship race from close to the back of the grid. This time it was Darren’s turn to take what turned out to be another dramatic start.
A collision between two Nissans and a Corvette before the field had even made it to turn one forced Darren to dive to the right to avoid the accident. He then had to do the same again a few laps later to avoid another crash. By the 10-minute mark he was up to 10th place but then spent the next few laps behind the safety car while everything calmed down again.
When the safety car pulled off there was only time for one racing lap before the pit window opened. Darren jumped a Ford GT for ninth place and then pitted to hand over to Stefan.
Stefan continued Darren’s good work and moved up to seventh before becoming well and truly stuck in an Aston Martin/Ford GT sandwich and held seventh to the chequered flag, taking six World Championship points.
“It all kicked off early on in this afternoon’s race,” said Darren. “I tried to keep out of trouble and I’m not sure that the car was as spot on as normal after the damper change. When Stefan went out he managed to take a couple more places but then had the same handling problems as me.”
“I’m afraid it’s another of those ‘what if’ weekends,” he continued. “We should’ve had a better qualifying race and it’s even more of a shame as we will miss the next race at Portimao (driving the AMR-One in the Spa 1000kms) so it is a real missed opportunity.”